Magical Realism, Writing, Fiction, Politics, Haiku, Books

domingo, abril 15, 2012

The Hour Of The Star

Clarice Lispector (1920-1977)

The only thing wrong with Clarice Lispector’s 1977 novella, The Hour of the Star (A hora a estrela) might be that it’s too short. It’s fewer than 100 pages. So it’s haunting, yes, and brilliant, yes, and strange, and it goes by too quickly. I wanted more. Maybe a twist at the end to prolong it just a little bit? But, no, as I feared, that really was the end. The food was great, but I'm still hungry.

No spoilers here. I can give Lispector’s one sentence précis in an interview shortly before he death:

[T]he book is "the story of a girl who was so poor that all she ate was hot dogs. That’s not the story, though. The story is about a crushed innocence, about an anonymous misery."

And then something more from Wiki:

Narrated by the cosmopolitan Rodrigo S.M., this ... tale is the story of Macabéa, one of life's unfortunates. Living in the slums of Rio and eking out a poor living as a typist, Macabéa loves movies, Coca-Cola, and her rat of a boyfriend; she would like to be like Marilyn Monroe, but she is ugly, underfed, sickly, and unloved. Rodrigo recoils from her wretchedness, and yet he cannot avoid the realization that for all her outward misery, Macabéa is inwardly free. She doesn't seem to understand how unhappy she should be.

There are a lot of lit crit points to be made, but I'm not having any of them. Somebody else will do that. You can read others' talk about how she changed the Brazilian language, her sentence structure and grammar, or her not reading other books (how is that possible?). Or how Macabea, her main character, is one of her very few references to Judaism. That and more is all for others.

For me, the best part of the novella is the narrator. The narrator's voice is incredibly well done. Uncertain at times, sometimes sure, sometimes unreliable, struggling, trying to get it right, avoiding the story, sometimes brilliant, sometimes wandering, but ultimately succeeding. Beautifully told. And powerful. It's worth reading the novella for the narrator alone.

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